Rhythm Tengoku[a] is a rhythm game developed by Nintendo SPD and published by Nintendo. It was released on August 3, 2006, and was the last game developed by Nintendo for the Game Boy Advance. An arcade version of the game was reprogrammed and published by Sega on September 20, 2007. Both versions were released in Japan exclusively. The game has spawned three sequels; Rhythm Heaven, Rhythm Heaven Fever, and Rhythm Heaven Megamix. It began as an idea created by its composer and supervisor Tsunku who proposed it to Nintendo due to his belief that they could do a better job with it than he could.
|Platform(s)||Game Boy Advance|
Arcade (Sega Naomi)
|Arcade system||Sega NAOMI|
Rhythm Tengoku's gameplay focuses on audio cues rather than visual cues to convey information to players. It features a number of unique stages which have their own type of rhythm and gameplay. Players follow the rhythm (in some rhythm games as a character) until the end where they are given a score based on their performance. The gameplay and music were both well received by critics and consumers. Parallels have been drawn between it and the developer's previous work on the WarioWare series.
Rhythm Tengoku is a rhythm game similar to the WarioWare series of video games due in part to its simplistic controls and art style. It features eight sets which consist of six rhythm games each (all of which are unique to each other). Each set's sixth stage is a remix of the previous games all at once. The games change in turn throughout the remix, which is accompanied by a new song. Some remixes (such as Remix 5) might even have characters wearing alternate costumes. The seventh and eighth sets consist of stages that were based on previous games, but are much harder. Players unlock more rhythm games by completing the rhythm games in order. The object of each rhythm game is to match the rhythm the game expects of players which varies from stage to stage. The game primarily relies on audio cues to indicate the rhythm; while it uses visual cues as well, it will sometimes subvert players' expectations with them. Players are given one of three ratings at the end of every stage - Try Again, OK, and Superb. Players must achieve an OK rank in order to proceed to the next game. Players who achieve Superb receive a medal which can be used to unlock Endless Games, Rhythm Toys, and Drum Lessons. Players are allowed to attempt a Perfect Campaign of a randomly selected stage. If players make any misses in the stage while making the attempt, a life/chance is lost, and the player must restart the stage from the beginning. Players have three lives/chances to attempt this before it either disappears or moves on to another rhythm game. Players who succeed receive an in-game certificate as well as a gift (varying on the rhythm game). If they obtain all certificates, they get a special certificate as well as access to all songs in the drum mode. The game's drum controls allow players to use the different buttons on the Game Boy Advance to control various aspects of the drums.
Rhythm Tengoku was released in Japan only during August 3, 2006 for the Game Boy Advance (GBA) and was developed by Nintendo SPD and published by Nintendo. Key staff members include Kazuyoshi Osawa, Tsunku (music composer and supervisor), Masami Yone (sound designer), and Ko Takeuchi (graphic designer). It was first revealed in an issue of Famitsu. The project began when Tsunku brought his proposal to Nintendo of a rhythm game that did not rely on visual indicators for its rhythm. Osawa was wary that people would enjoy it due to its lack of a music score as he felt that it might only appeal to a niche audience. It was decided to be released on the GBA due to Osawa's desire for a smaller screen and portability. The staff took dance lessons in order to improve their rhythm by the recommendation of the game's music composer Tsunku. One stage that made an impression was Rhythm Tweezers, a level that featured an onion with a face from which players pluck its hair. It was originally going to be a real face, but it was deemed "a little too gross." Another stage is called The Bon Odori and is based on the real-world Japanese Bon Festival.
Before the game's release, a Kiosk Demo named Rhythm Tengoku: Trial Version was playable in shops, allowing people to try out the game before it was released. The Kiosk Demo only lets the player play three of the Rhythm Games from Set 1; Karate Man, Rhythm Tweezers and The Clappy Trio, as well as the Rhythm Test (only the first part of it can be played through). The Kiosk Demo also reminds the game's price of 3,800 Yen on the title screen, the Rhythm Game select menu, and even in the Rhythm Games (appearing at the end of The Clappy Trio and Rhythm Tweezers, and even in the background during Karate Man once the player reaches 50% (three hearts or more) on the Flow Meter).
One year after the game's release, Sega approached the staff with an offer to co-develop an arcade version of the game for the Sega Naomi (under the title of Rhythm Tengoku), which was released September 20, 2007. This was due to the popularity of the game with its development staff. Osawa brought this offer to the attention of Nintendo president Satoru Iwata and others who approved of the idea. Yone had to make adjustments in the arcade version due to the differences between arcade mechanics and console mechanics. The arcade version had remastered graphics (One rhythm game to have this change in the arcade version (most notably) was Karate Man). Arcade version also featured an extra set based on Set 1, but at 150% speed and with remade music to match (Note: The vocals in the Karate Man: Tempo Up! extra stage are the same).
The arcade also features multiplayer, even though the first main Rhythm Heaven game to have multiplayer was Rhythm Heaven Fever for the Wii. Rhythm Tengoku was also the only game licensed by Nintendo for the Sega Naomi, and it was one of the very few games developed by Nintendo and Sega respectively.
Rhythm Tengoku has since received three sequels. The first was titled Rhythm Heaven for the Nintendo DS and was the first game in the series to be released outside of Japan. It uses touchscreen controls rather than buttons. The next game was titled Rhythm Heaven Fever. It was released on the Wii, then it was re-released on the Wii U 5 years after the game came out on the Wii in Japan. It featured button controls and had unlockable extra stages that originate from this game. The games were titled Rhythm Paradise and Beat the Beat: Rhythm Paradise in Europe respectively.
The fourth game in the series is titled Rhythm Heaven Megamix and features games from Tengoku, Heaven and Fever. Rhythm Heaven Megamix also includes some brand new games made specifically for it, including Catchy Tune, LumBEARjack, and Sumo Brothers.
Rhythm Tengoku and its sequels were the source of inspiration for independent video games such as Beat Sneak Bandit and Karateka Mania. Simon Flesser (designer of Beat Sneak Bandit) cites Rhythm Tengoku's artistic design and mixture of beats and back beats as influences in its design.
Rhythm Tengoku has received generally positive reception. While it did not receive much attention before its release it was very well received by consumers. The game received an Excellence Prize for Entertainment at the 10th annual Japan Media Arts Festival in 2006. Video game designer Frank Lantz listed Rhythm Tengoku amongst his five favourite games. Eurogamer's staff ranked it the 36th best game of 2006 while its readership voted it the 50th best. Tom of Eurogamer called it the best Game Boy Advance game of the year while he and fellow Eurogamer staff member James felt that it was at least on par with Elite Beat Agents (which also received positive reception). GameSpy's Andrew Alfonso praised its music, gameplay, and variety; he felt however that it was not long enough. GamesRadar staff included the game's drum lessons in its list of the "20 Magical Nintendo moments". A reviewer at Computer and Video Games (CVG) gave praise to it for its WarioWare-like humour and its quality music but felt that the game lacked replay value and length. Kotaku's Brian Ashcraft called it "one of the Game Boy Advance's most interesting (and enjoyable) titles". GamesRadar's Shane Patterson recommended it for people who liked WarioWare's art aesthetics and music. CVG's Andy Kelly included the Bon Odori song in his list of the 100 best video game themes ever. He called it "insanely catchy." Eurogamer's Chris Schilling used Rhythm Tengoku as an example of a game that would be overlooked if the Game Boy Advance was region-locked. 1UP.com's Bob Mackey called its lack of an American release "one of the great Game Boy Advance injustices of 2006". Wired's Chris Kohler noted that Rhythm Tengoku (as well as other games) should be released on the Virtual Console or WiiWare services, but it was not.
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